It seems that I’ve recovered from my jet-lag. This year it was especially bad. There are actually gaps in my memory from last week. I took all the right precautions: regular sleep schedule, time in the sun, exercise, lots of water, no alcohol, no naps etc. I can recount every minute of our last day: from my sunglasses hurling themselves violently under the train that morning in Napoli, to wandering the Piazza Navona with Rob after elbowing up to the counter for limoncello gelato at Giolitti. All of last week, however, is a total loss. I vaguely remember something about house-cleaning, meeting a group of “Geek Girls” for dinner at Zolo’s, and trying to climb at the gym and feeling really weak while doing so. A day in Rome is much better!
Here is a quick run-through of how a possible afternoon in Rome could go–taking into account the extreme heat/humidity, crowds and the location of your hotel (we stayed in a B&B on the Esquiline Hill, in the area of the ancient Subura neighborhood):
Walking from our hotel, the Trinity B&B, we headed down the Via in Selci–the ancient Clivus Suburanus–which takes you past the church of Santa Lucia where you can see the embedded remains of a 5th century Roman basilica, built upon the site of the Porticus Liviae, built by Augustus. We followed this small street to the Via Cavour, then wound our way along small side-streets, until we could hear the dull roar: Welcome to the Trevi Fountain.
While it is ALWAYS crowded, even at night, the Trevi is a great place to stop for a photo or two, and cool off. The temperature difference here from the rest of the city is probably 10 – 15 degrees. Be sure to toss in a coin (it will guarantee your return to Roma).
From the Trevi, we wandered around and over to the Pantheon, passing more ancient fragments of some large public building. I still have yet to find a source telling me what they were. If anybody reading this recognizes this structure, let me know!
Another “cool” spot, literally and figuratively, is the “Pantheon”. Originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa after the battle of Actium, and rebuilt possibly two more times, the structure you see today is likely attributed to Trajan’s architect, Apollodorus of Damascus. It is awe-inspiring, regardless of who actually built it. The dome still stands today as the largest, free-standing unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
Leaving the shade of the Pantheon’s colonnade and heading out into the sun-warmed Piazza della Rontonda, we turned down a side street towards an area called “Largo Argentina”–the site of Pompey’s Theater and the Torre Argentina cat sanctuary. Every year dozens of cats are carelessly abandoned here at the edge of a large excavation. Below the street and off to one side, you will find a small collection of modernized rooms including a vet clinic, kennels, a gift shop and storage. A group of dedicated people care for these unwanted cats: vaccinating, spaying/neutering, feeding them and, for a lucky few, finding adoptive homes. We pay them a visit every time we come to Roma.
The archaeological site at Torre Argentina is very interesting. The remains of Republican era temples, and portions of Pompey the Great’s theater (the first in Ancient Rome to be built of stone) can be seen. You can see where Julius Caesar was assassinated, and view one of the biggest public Roman latrines I’ve found so far!
After hanging out with the cats for a bit, we walked back over past the Pantheon to find gelato. In the Piazza della Rotonda we picked up our friend Rob, from the Pompeii Food and Drink Project, and made our way to Giolitti! Limoncello gelato is truly refreshing on a hot summer day.
Around the corner, sitting proudly in the Piazza Colonna, is the Column of Marcus Aurelius. It stands over 100 feet tall and is a winding commentary on his wars in the Danube region.
After a few moments of admiring Marcus’s column (no innuendo/pun intended (well maybe a little)) we walked over to the nearby Piazza Navona to look at the visible remains of Domitian’s stadium and check out the fountains, one of which was featured in the movie version of “Angels and Demons”–I suggest not renting the DVD, just read the book.
The fountains are all working, free of scaffolding and clean, in case you were wondering…
The piazza basically takes the form of the Stadium of Domitian. You can really see this if you look at a satellite image of the area. Off of the rounded end of the “stadium” there is a door leading into an apartment building. At the back of the foyer is a railing, over which you can look down into the remains of the main entrance to the stadium, complete with arches, vaults and assorted decorative architectural fragments. I keep hoping it will open to the public one day–wishful thinking…
After finishing our gelato we did some people watching in the Piazza Navona and then it was time to wind our way back to the Esquiline for dinner. We said “a più tardi” to Rob–I rarely say “goodbye” because I like to leave the option of seeing you later on the table–and went back via the Circus Maximus and one last stroll past Il Colosseo. For as gory and brutal a history that it has, I will always be drawn to the Colosseum.
There you have it. An afternoon in Roma.