Taking the afternoon off work to make our flight, Easyjet thoughtfully delays the plane for a few hours before we take off. I wonder how many flights of theirs actually leave keeps us waiting. We travelled light, with just backpacks so didn’t have to worry about baggage reclaim or any of that rubbish, and just hopped on a coach, then a taxi to our hotel. We stayed near
Campo Dei Fiori, a lively marketplace in the Historical Centre.
We started off on Saturday morning with a walk to Piazza Navona, the Centrepiece of which is a fountain by Bernini. One of the statues appears to be shielding his eyes to a church which was designed by Bernini’s rivals. Earlier in the year we had read Dan Brown’s "Angels and Demons" (the prequel to The Da Vinci Code, and I think it’s a lot better), which is set in Rome and revolves around clues in Bernini’s architecture communicating the word of the (fictious) Illuminati. In the square was a Christmas market, though strangely most of the stalls had a large display of Witches, some of which would cackle and have their eyes glow when activated by noise.
Fontana di Trevi, our next place of interest is a real draw for tourists, and completely dominates a small square. ‘They’ say that it is good luck to throw a coin over your shoulder, one coin and you will return to Rome, two coins and you will fall in love with an Italian. Jo asked me if she could borrow a couple of coins, the monkey. Personally I think the guy who perpetuates this whole throw a coin in the fountain idea is the bloke with a long stick with a magnet on the end, merrily collecting up all the coins.
Afterwards, we pop inside the breathtaking Pantheon (27 BC) and gaze up at the hole in the top of the giant granite dome. Unfortunately it is not raining so we can't see what the result would be (it is supposed to drain into the edges of the concave marble floor).
Piazza Venezia (monument to unknown soldier, aka typewriter/wedding cake).
Built as a monument to Vittorio Emannuelle, and at the end of the road Mussolini built over the top of the ancient Roman Forum leading up to the Coloseum. We climbed up the fascist eyesore and admired the wonderful views surrounding us.
After a short afternoon snooze, we headed back out into the cold to Piazza di Spagna. It was a disappointing sight - dark and unlit, and the church at the top of the steps was in scaffolding and covered from head to toe in a big Prada poster. Amen! When Jo visited some years ago in the summer the steps to the pretty church were lined with flowers and the barchetta (little boat) fountain at the bottom was lit up at night. But there was none of that. Ah well.. So we trundled off to have dinner and were given massive gorgeous balls of Mozerella di Buffala. Yum!
On Sunday we were woken up to the sound of the bells of some of Rome's 900 churches (you'd have to visit 17 a week for a year to see them all!!). We stick earplugs in our ears and end up over sleeping. When we eventually wake, we speed down to the ruins of the ancient
Roman Forum, and walk in the direction of the Coloseum.
Vatican & St Peters Basilica
We caught the underground to Ottoviano and had a rip off lunch nr the Vatican. Then made our way to St Peters and went into the Basilica with room for 60,000 people to worship. We took some lovely photos, we saw Michaelangelo's Pieta - one of his best sculptures, he did when he was 21. We saw the massive 7 storey altar created by Bernini using bronze 'borrowed' from the Pantheon, and above the altar the stunning dome decorated by Michaelangelo.
Afterwards we wanted to go into the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel, but alas it was closed on a Sunday. So as it was raining and very chilly! we dashed off down to
Castel Sant'angelo. Just down the road from the Vatican, the Castel is linked to the vatican by a secret tunnel which allows the pope to escape there in times of crisis. It was a strange place inside but had wonderful views over the city, and we popped into a very old style caffe for a cappucino to warm up and watching the flamboyant over excitable italian waiter scaring off all the tourists!
After visiting Castel Sant'angelo and before making our way back to catch our flight, we visited Ponte Sant'angelo - the bridge leading to the Castel, decorated by bernini and his apprentices with angels, supposedly leading the secret path to scientific enlightenment.
All in all we had a fantastic weekend. In all our travels around the world, there really is no place like Rome! An amazingly beautiful open air museum with a vibrant city growing amongst it.
To see the rest of our photos, please click here