Tiber River

When In Rome…

I suppose that I’ve sufficiently succeeded in being completely cheesy and unoriginal, using the two most obvious cliche’s to name my two posts about Rome (first post).  Oh well, this is what you can expect from me when I’m faced with the monumental task of bringing you up to speed on our many recent adventures.  So, let’s begin!

When I last left you, we had seen the Pope’s home (Vatican City), a bunch of steps (Spanish Steps) and a some running water (Trevi Fountain).  The next day, we wanted to see a pile of stones (Colosseum) and a big dome (Pantheon).  And if anyone ever describes some of the world’s most precious treasures like that again, smack them!
On our second day in Rome, we set out early to reach the Colosseum, the world’s largest ancient amphitheater and one of the most spectacular examples of Roman engineering and design. It is estimated that the colosseum could hold as many as 80,000 spectators.  If you put that into perspective, that’s as big as most NFL football stadiums – only it was built almost 2000 years ago! I’m no historian, but I don’t think they had reinforced steel, engineering software and cement-mixing trucks back then.  It’s no wonder that the Amphitheatrum Flavium (it’s Latin name) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of seven wonders of the world [source].

Amphitheatrum Flavium (Colosseum)
Julia found some horses that she wanted to ride
I hold Julia outside the massive stadium
Posing with Dad
Now momma gets a photo with Julia

We didn’t get to spend too much time at the Colosseum because we had something even more important to do as we approached mid-day.  I know, you’re thinking… “Greg, I’ve been reading this blog long enough to know that your very important thing is just lunch”.  On any other day, you would be correct.  But on this particular day… lunch would have to wait.  We had a meeting with someone you may have heard of.  Oh you know… Pope Francis.

Papa Francesco greets us from a window in the Papal Residence

Now, when I say “meeting with the Pope” – I mean, a meeting of sorts.  A meeting that I generously shared with about 5,000 other people.  Every Sunday at noon, the Pope addresses the masses from the Papal Residence and delivers a short address to the crowd, followed by a blessing.  It was quite a tremendous thing indeed to be blessed by the Pope!

Large crowds await the Pope’s appearance
We take a picture amongst the crowd
A somewhat grumpy Julia rises above the crowd to take a picture with the Papal Residence in the background
The crowd roared with jubilation when Pope Francis appeared
Jen and Julia listened intently during his address
A view of Saint Peter’s Basilica with the crowd

We left the Vatican feeling great and enthralled by the beautiful weather.  We decided to continue our tour of Rome with wide detours, adding time and additional sights to our pedestrian footpath. We departed from the Vatican and walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo before crossing over the famous Ponte Sant’Angelo bridge.  We strolled along the Fiume Tevere (Tiber River), Italy’s third longest river that courses directly through the city of Rome.

We were lost among a sea of people departing Vatican City along Via Della Conciliazione
We have our photo taken with Vatican City in the background
A direct shot of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Obelisk that sits in front
Castel Sant’Angelo
The Italian flag waves proudly atop the castle
Angels fly overtop the Ponte Sant’Angelo 
Crossing the Ponte Sant’Angelo I turned for a view of the castle
View along the Fiume Tevere (Tiber River)
Although, this was my favorite view along the river

Our destination was the chic neighborhood of Trastevere.  Trastevere is to Rome as the West Village is to New York, but with fewer hipsters and MacBooks.  Small streets are lined with great shops, cafes and restaurants.  People spend time outside and congregate with neighbors.  The short time we spent there was long enough to fantasize about owning a pied-à-terre in this particular part of Rome.  We ate a fabulous lunch at a local place and continued on by foot.

A small ristorante in Trastevere
Even the Vespa’s look hipper
People gather at a cafe
The narrow streets don’t offer a lot of room for the public transportation

We wrapped around to the southwest portion of the city to see the Fonte Acqua Paola – a site that is seldom talked about, but worth a visit.  A panoramic view of the city opens before you eyes from the elevated vantage point.  The styling of the fountain is nearly as impressive as the Trevi Fountain, but without the crowds.

Julia leads the way up to the fountain
A beautiful panoramic view of Rome opens from this high vantage point
Fonte Acqua Paola –  built in 1610 to mark the end of the Acqua Paola acqueduct
Julia is thrilled to have discovered another fountain
She allows me to take a picture with her

We next made our way to the east banks of the Tiber river and visited Campo dè Fiori, an outdoor marketplace.  We followed a short arc back toward the Pantheon.  Along the way, we saw the Area Sacra, one of Rome’s most significant archeological finds.  Four temples dating as far back as the fourth century BC were discovered quite by accident in 1926.  We planned to eat dinner in one of the restaurants in Piazza Navona, Rome’s largest piazza built on grounds of the ancient Stadio di Domiziano.  After taking in the beauty of the piazza, we spent all of three minutes evaluating and then quickly dismissing the restaurant options.  The places were obvious tourist traps, many of them boasting pictures of their food (which is always our first sign it’s time to scram).  Instead we tucked into a little trattoria on a nearly unnoticed street and settled in for a couple nice glasses of wine.

Area Sacra a significant find in the middle of the modern city
The Pantheon was built in 126 AD
The Pantheon’s coffered dome was poured in concrete moulds- the oculus is the main source of natural light
Fontana del Pantheon across from Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda
We stopped for some wine in a nearby piazza while Julia had dinner
The Pantheon and Piazza Rotunda at night
The fountain in front of the Pantheon
Altare della Patria (Alter of the Fatherland) also known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II

We had two big days in a magical city, but so much more still ahead of us.  We were departing on our cruise the next day; eager to embark on another adventure on the sea.

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